03/20/07 – March Madness (Blind Whites)

By Jesse on March 19, 2007


The playoffs have finally arrived! Your diligent tasting efforts over the past six weeks have hopefully prepared you adequately for the grueling task you’re about to undertake over the next two: taste bottles entirely blind, knowing nothing more the three varietals that they could possibly be, and attempt to guess the varietal (and, for the boldest of the winos, the region as well). The points that you’ve accumulated over the past six weeks will count towards your final total. They also allow us to determine the seeds heading into the final taste-off. Here are the current standings:


1. Maggy (4.0)
2. Jesse (3.5)
3. Jen (3.0)
4. Newsha (2.5)
5. Amy (2.0)
5. Nick (2.0)
5. Emily (2.0)
8. Don (1.5)
Tied for 9th with 1.0: Jeff, Jessica, Noah, Sasha, Brittney, Leah, Nathan, Other Jen, Andrew, Derek, Erik, Whittney
Tied for 21st with 0.5: Jason, Eli

Do these rankings reflect true tasting skill, or are they simply the result of favorable circumstances, frequent attendance, and psychological play? Only the next two weeks will tell! Here are the official rules for the two-week playoff period:

The final two weeks are entirely blind tastings consisting of the three whites (Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Chardonnay) one week, followed by the three reds (Syrah, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon) the next week. Players arrive with their wine in a neutral brown paper bag. If the bag has markings, it will be switched with another bag to prevent cheating. The brown paper bags will then be surrounded by a second plastic grocery bag — this will prevent detection of the shape of the bottle by tasters, as such a clue could be very useful in determining the varietal. Once all the bottles are accumulated, they will be randomly poured by young winos in no pre-set order. This means that players will not know when the wine that they brought is being poured. Players will write down their guesses and submit them; the bottle will then be revealed, and points tallied.

Scoring: One point is awarded for guessing the correct varietal; no points deducted for incorrect guess. Depending on how many people show up, a player could conceivably accumulate ten or twenty points in one meeting. Here’s the twist: if a player wishes to guess the region in which the wine was made, they are free to do so. Correct guess results in one extra point (i.e. a correct guess of “Syrah from California” gets two points). An incorrect region guess, however, results in the deduction of one-half point when paired with a correct varietal guess (i.e. if it’s Syrah from California, and you guess Syrah from France, you receive only a half-point for your correct varietal guess).

For Tuesday night’s meeting, please bring any of the three whites we’ve tasted. The only additional specification is that you should attempt to bring one from a region we tasted during that varietal’s meeting. For example, they do a small amount of Chardonnay in Italy, but if you bring an Italian Chardonnay, no one’s going to guess it, so that’s no fun. Therefore, try to stick to these regions:

Sauvignon Blanc
–France (Loire, i.e. Pouilly-Fume, Sancerre; or Bordeaux, i.e. Graves, Entre-Deux-Mers)
–New Zealand (i.e. Marlborough)

–France (Alsace)

–France (Burgundy, i.e. Chablis, Macon, Pouilly-Fuisse, Cote de Beaune)

Be bold! Pick a wine from Europe to add some degree of challenge to the meeting. It’ll probably help you, also, because if we’re tasting majority California wines, and then a distinctly European one comes along, you’re gonna be like, “ah ha, maybe that’s mine,” and… well, I’m actually gonna stop now, since I’m clearly giving away my strategy.

This week we’ll be back at my place in Sherman Oaks. We’ll see how strongly home-court advantage plays into things. Chill that amazing bottle of white, wrap it in a brown paper bag, and we’ll see your bad selves on Tuesday at 9 PM!